MGM Resorts Reveals Plans for Empire City If Awarded NY Casino License

MGM Resorts Reveals Plans for Empire City If Awarded NY Casino License
Fact Checked by Pat McLoone

MGM Resorts International on Thursday released some details regarding its efforts to transform its Empire City Casino into a full-fledged “entertainment destination” should it receive one of three casino licenses available for downstate New York projects.

The Yonkers Raceway racino is already home to MGM’s largest U.S. gaming floor, with more than 4,400 video lottery terminals and electronic table games spread across 160,000 square feet. If Empire City were approved for a Class III gaming license, it would offer live-dealer table games, a high-limit gaming area and a brick-and-mortar BetMGM sportsbook featuring a 112-foot LED screen and stadium-style seating. BetMGM online casino also would be a player if iGaming comes to the state.

“As MGM Resorts prepares to enter its sixth year at the helm of this iconic property, we are excited to be able to combine the knowledge we have developed of the New York market with our expertise as a global entertainment brand to bring the next chapter of New York’s entertainment landscape to the incredible community we are part of,” Empire City General manager Ed Domingo said in a statement.

A redesigned Empire City would include new dining options, including a steakhouse, and existing eateries would be transformed into high-end concepts. The Yonkers casino would also be home to a 5,000-seat theater hosting “A-list” performers and events.

 “A full-scale casino and entertainment destination will provide unparalleled experiences, create thousands of jobs, boost the state’s economy, and be a game-changer for the entire region,” MGM Resorts President and CEO Bill Hornbuckle said.

The New York betting scene awaits the awarding of the three downstate casino licenses and possibly iGaming legislation in 2024. There currently are no online New York casinos.

Yonkers Officials Behind Bid

The competition for the three licenses is expected to be fierce. Top-name gaming operators are aligning with developers in New York City, Long Island or in places like Westchester County, where the historic Yonkers Raceway is located. While some in the industry have felt that MGM and Resorts World, which operates a VLT racino at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens, would have an inside track because they’re already located in the region, state gaming officials repeatedly have said no bidder will receive preferential treatment.

However, the existing sites have one advantage: They enjoy community support. Before the state can consider a casino proposal, it must first receive two-thirds support from a review board that includes local representatives or appointees.

Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano said a full casino license represents a “momentous opportunity” for the city across the county line from the Bronx.

“Already drawing millions of guests annually, this development plan will solidify Empire City’s status as a premier entertainment destination,” Spano said. “Generations of Yonkers residents have worked at, enjoyed, and supported this historic property for 125 years, and I am excited about the significant impacts this project will have for residents now and for the next 125 years.”

MGM did not reveal how much it would invest in overhauling Empire City. However, conditions for receiving a license include a minimum development cost of $500 million, and several groups plan billion-dollar projects in their proposals.

The process of awarding the downstate casino licenses began on Jan. 3 when the New York Gaming Facility Location Board released the solicitation. However, the process has been slowed due to the number of questions officials received from interested bidders. It took staffers from the Gaming Commission nearly seven months to respond.

A second round of questions was due on Oct. 6. No timeframe has been announced for when answers to those will be released. When that happens, though, a 30-day window for applicants to submit their proposals will start.

More information on the timeline could come as soon as Monday afternoon when the New York State Gaming Commission meets. A discussion of an appointment to the GFLB is listed on the agenda. The board is set to have five members, three of whom already have been appointed.

The GFLB will review proposals that have been approved by a local board. It will then recommend projects for licenses, which the NYSGC will formally approve.



Steve is an accomplished, award-winning reporter with more than 20 years of experience covering gaming, sports, politics and business. He has written for the Associated Press, Reuters, The Louisville Courier Journal, The Center Square and numerous other publications. Based in Louisville, Ky., Steve has covered the expansion of sports betting in the U.S. and other gaming matters.